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Zombie Pope!

Zombie Pope needs brains!

It’s been a long time coming but Starcraft 2 is here- at least in beta. You can soak up the full experience on it’s release date, July 27 2010, but for right now you are limited to online VS play only. It’s really left me with somewhat disappointed, but then again I never was into playing RTS games against strangers online- it’s really a mixed bag out there. Here are my impressions so far.

The Good

  • The core game hasn’t changed at all. This is the same SC you remember and love from 1998.
  • Pretty, it’s a game you’d take home to momma.
  • Battle.net is getting vastly improved for this release and provides a nice interface for downloading new maps, player matching, achievements, and league ladders.
  • Lots of old units with new abilities, lots of new units with even newer abilities.
  • Zerg rushes impeded on some maps due to destructible terrain with high HPs blocking immediate access to starting base locations.

The Bad

  • Still very buggy – I can’t exit the game without it freezing and making me force quit it (running Win 7 64 bit). Sometimes online games have a weird pause every 3 seconds.
  • Terran’s, like in every other sci-fi game, are retarded compared with the alien Zerg and Protoss units. They just plain suck in nearly every situation.
  • No good single player, the beta only allows to play against a computer on a map set to Very Easy AI – which basically never attacks you and doesn’t really let you learn all the new units abilities.

The  Ugly

  • So far I’ve been steam-rolled by other players within the first 20 minutes. That’s fine, but it doesn’t give much time to learn all the new unit/building abilities.
  • Much worse, if I’m not completely decimated by my foe, they just outright ignore me. I just finished a game where after 45 minutes I had attacked 3 times and failed because the person I was playing against refused to ever attack. He just horded his units and base-built the whole time. It felt like a horrible waste of an hour.

What Started it

It all started with my posting of the following quote:

We must ask ourselves
We who are so proud of our accomplishments
What is our place in the cosmic perspective of life?

Robert Jastrow

A Surprise Reaction

Two good friends of mine both took it in a way I didn’t expect.  I have had great discussions and disagreements with both of these guys- it’s part of the reason I count them among a small group of people I consider close friends. I had a very lengthy discussion with one of these friends on this subject, and we basically had to agree to disagree – it is my hope this article might sway him over to my side! Or at the very least understand my position better.

The response to the above quote was taken by both to imply the insignificance of us, Humans. One evoked that while it is true that we are a very small part of the universe and it does not revolve around us, he argued that once you have kids they become “worth more than the whole universe combined.” I explained that I didn’t post this as a means to devalue human life. Rather, I just wanted to remind people just how big the rest of the universe is compared to our tiny globe. My other friend stumbled upon the post and asked me how anyone could possibly interpret that quote in any other way but to conclude the Earth, and everything on it, is insignificant in the face of the universe. I hope to explain fully why I believe the quote and the idea of cosmic perspective does quite the opposite when you think about it fully.

Why Cosmic Perspective ≠ Insignificance

  • Life– The earth contains amazing amounts of diverse life. There are literally millions of different species that make up the animal kingdom, of which we Humans number in the billions (estimated currently at 6.8). This is not to mention the diverse microscopic life which makes up each and every living animal on the Earth. Everywhere we have explored on our planet we find it teaming with life. Yet, when we leave our cozy home we find not a trace of life. We look extremely hard, much harder than we have to here on Earth, and we still don’t find any signs of life- past or present. Life is so easy to find here on Earth but so far it seems our solar system is completely devoid of life. We postulate from this that other solar systems could be just as devoid of life. Perhaps someday we will find it, but it is has proven non-exsistent in the nooks and corners we have searched so far.

    Our planet, the Earth, is as far as we know unique in the universe;  it contains life.
    David Attenborough

  • Unique Life- Now imagine for a moment that we found as much diverse life on every planet in our Solar system as we enjoy here at home.

    Without a cosmic perspective, it is very easy to become complacent by these extremely large counts of life on earth. Life is seemingly everywhere, so much so that life is common and is taken for granted to be everywhere we look, but that is a terrible misconception. All life as we know it is an endangered species, including Humans. It exists solely on the planet Earth and nowhere else in the universe. Considering Darwin’s insights, random mutation causing new traits that are either preferential or detrimental to a species’s success, it is highly unlikely that we will find life anywhere else in the Universe that is an exact replica of the life found on our planet. If some cosmic event were to utterly destroy the Earth that would be it- everything as we know it would be gone…forever.

    The Earth and all its past and present inhabitants are extremely significant.

  • SmallInsignificantWe Humans seem to have a strange fetish for size; bigger means better. But thats not quite right is it? Some of the most powerful things we know of in the universe are some of the smallest.Take an atom for example, until recently it was the smallest unit of matter we knew about. Yet, despite it’s tiny size it can yield massive amounts of energy making it the strongest controllable force Humanity is able to wield. Now lets think slightly bigger, on the scale of stars. Our star is pretty small when compared to some known stars but it’s still pretty big compared to other stars. Lets think for a moment on the one of the craziest known stellar phenomenons: a black hole. The amazing properties of a black hole are due to it’s massive …ahem…. mass. However they can be quite small, with a stellar-mass sized black hole having a radius of around 30km(~18.6 miles).

    To think that the Earth and everything on it is insignificant merely because of our size against the backdrop of the rest of the universe is to ignore the power of splitting an atom or overcoming the speed of light.

Why Does It Matter?

So why is it important to maintain a cosmic perspective? Well, other than having an even firmer grasp of the cosmic reality which we are a part, I think Carl Sagan put it best as he muses about picture taken by Voyager of a pale blue dot:

National Geographic has a fantastic article talking about research being lead by Dr. Alexander Kashlinsky of NASA.

The jist of the research is that his team has been finding for the past 2 years  that there are hundreds of galaxy clusters all heading in the same direction at about 2.2 billion parsecs miles per hour. Why is this crazy super awesome besides how rediculously fast they’re moving?

Well the big question is, why are all these galactic clusters moving in the same direction? This mysterious force has been dubbed “Dark Flow” by the research team and their hypothesis to explain why dark flow exists in the universe is this – mass. Lots of it. Located outside the known universe. Pulling things towards it like because of what gravity likes to do.

Now think about that for a moment. Hundreds of galaxy clusters, which are themselves made up of anywhere between 50-1000 individual galaxies, are being tugged at by some unknown thing, some colossal structure outside what we call the known universe. Imagine the amount of mass this unknown, extra-universal entity must have to be able to induce a gravitational effect of such magnitude on such a huge scale. Just as it was once thought that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, was the only galaxy and therefore the entire universe it is possible that this outside thing could in fact be a totally other universe and that our universe is just one of many.

Today, the FCC unveiled their plan to embolden the infrastructure of broadband in the US.

A quick run-down of the plan involves four key strategies:

  1. Competition– design policies that spur competition in the broadband market to “maximize consumer welfare, innovation, and investment.”
  2. Government– allocate and manage government funds and influence to “encourage network upgrades and competitive entry.”
  3. Reform– reform to allow broadband to made available in “high-cost areas” (read: middle-of-nowhere) and ensure low income Americans can afford it everywhere. This also includes inducing greater adoption and utilization of broadband.
  4. More Reform– reform of “laws, policies, standards, and incentives ub sectors of government influences significantly.” This would include public schools, health care, and all government-run operations.

If you ask me it’s about time we started treating the Internet as a utility that everyone should have access to rather than a specialized, high-priced commodity. I’ve only had a chance to skim the document but I like what I see so far except for the bit about TF2 death-panels…